EA Award: Cooking the Beans and Burying the Sherds

One of the winners of the EXARC Experimental Archaeology Award is Dr Timothy Baumann. They presented a poster on the first stages of their experimental bean residue study at the University of Tennessee’s McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture for the annual Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology (CRITA) meeting in Nashville, Tennessee on January 28th, 2023. 

The poster is entitled "Step One: Cooking the Beans and Burying the Sherds" and discusses the preliminary steps taken to discover biomarkers of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) from absorbed residue analysis of precontact Native pottery. They selected the heirloom pole bean variety known as the Cherokee Trail of Tears bean to cook with the sherd samples.  This bean variety is associated with the Cherokee people that were forcibly removed from their homeland by the United States to Oklahoma between 1830 and 1850. The sherds used came from a replica 14th -15th century Mississippian period pottery jar with shell tempering that was made by modern potter Tammy Beane. After cooking the sherds with the beans, they placed eight sherds in the ground and two sherds in a freezer for one month.  This was done to document the difference in the decomposition of the bean residue when buried in the ground versus frozen. The sherds are now being analyzed by Dr. Eleanora Reber at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for absorbed bean residue using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). The results, hopefully successful, will be presented at the 2023 EXARC meeting in Poland (#EAC13).    

The heirloom beans were acquired from the Seadsavers Exchange -